Introducing the Belle Sour

Welcome! You must have seen our feature in the Cambridgeshire Cookbook: Second Helpings, or maybe you just got lost wandering around our site… either way, we hope you will like the cocktail recipe from the book and these accompanying recipes, all by our very own Aoife Maxwell.

To make infused spirits:

Half fill a sterilised Kilner jar or bottle with fruit of choice, add a scant tablespoon of sugar (at most – could leave out completely) and fill with spirit.

Delicate fruits (e.g. rhubarb, raspberry and strawberry) should be infused for about 2 weeks before straining out the fruit and bottling in a sterilised bottle. More robust fruit (e.g. blackcurrant, sloes) is happy for months.

You can add sugar to taste once infusion is complete or add sugar during the cocktail making process using syrups or other sweet alcohol.

Aoife’s top tip: “I often make rhubarb vodka this way but you can now also buy fantastic rhubarb vodka and gin in specialist shops like Cambridge Wine Merchants”

To make simple syrup:

You will need 500 gr. of sugar and 500 ml. of water

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan together. Stir and heat very gently until all the sugar has dissolved.

Using a funnel, pour into a sterilised bottle. Once cool, store in the fridge until needed.

To make herb infused syrups:

You will need a bowlful of fresh herbs, freshly boiled water, and sugar.

Cover the bowl of herbs with freshly boiled water. Allow to infuse for an hour. Strain out the leaves. Strain again through muslin to remove any small bits of leaf or random stuff.
Measure (by volume or mass) the amount of liquid you now have. Add an equal amount of sugar. E.g. if you have 500 ml.  of liquid, add 500 gr. sugar. If you have 400 gr. of liquid, add 400 gr. of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved (you may need to heat it gently).

Once dissolved, transfer to a sterilised bottle. Store in the fridge.

Aoife’s top tip: “Lots of herbs work well in syrups: lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender… To make the gooseberry, strawberry and lemon balm  syrup used in the Belle Sour I combined a lemon balm infused syrup made as above with lightly cooked gooseberries and strawberries. I left it to infuse overnight and then strained the mixture several times.”


Looking back at 2017/18…

Secretary’s Report – by Alice Hehir 

Cambridge Blue Belles WI have had another great year with a wide ranging series of activities and talks as well as many events taking place outside the regular meetings.  Although the membership has remained full at 48 members, sadly we said goodbye to some of the founding members in 2017. We did however welcome 13 new members at the start of January 2018  which has been ably overseen by Lucy and Yvonne. 

Our programme has been as varied as our WI members – Rachael in particular has worked hard to ensure there has been a balance of different types of activities and has done an excellent job in sourcing many of our speakers.  Melissa has also worked hard in overseeing the finances to ensure we can afford to pay for these talented and inspiring people.  

During the year we have had talks on plants, setting up and running your own business, tattooing as well as the history of women and witchcraft.  In June, we learnt about the chemical components of plants including their many uses for medicinal and other purposes.  During the September meeting, we welcomed Jo Kruczynska who had set up her own local café ‘Afternoon Tease’.  We learnt all about the highs and lows (and burns) of making 35 cakes a day!  It was a Q&A style session in which Lucy compered the meeting with ease and everyone felt truly inspired by Jo’s talk about pursuing a dream and making it a reality.  There was also a talk about tattooing in November.  Our speaker, Matt Lodder, discussed the work and life of Jessie Knight who was the best tattoo artist in post-war Britain.  March saw Dr Maureen James from ‘Witches and Wisewomen’ giving a talk outlining a short history of English witch craft.  During this meeting,   Antidote Productions, an all-female documentary production company filmed part of our meeting as well as carried out interviews with some of our members about what gender, womanhood and identity means to them.  

A demonstration session was led by Becks Simpson of Thairapy, vintage hair and makeup stylist. During her 90 minute session Becks showed us how to create vintage hairdo’s on our own hair with easy techniques, a few products and basic tools.

We also had a number of active sessions which gave us the opportunity to learn new skills and try things out.  In May we honed our rhythmic and musical skills with a Samba drumming session.  As part of our Summer Social in July we had the opportunity to learn all about women wine makers from Spain as well sample no less than 6 different wines at the very hospitable Cambridge Wine Merchants.  Celebrating summer time in August, we made both fresh and paper flower crowns led by our very own committee with handpicked flowers from Newnam College courtesy of member Mel Hale.  A highlight of the year was having the opportunity to make our own chocolates – some of which were given as gifts, others not!  In January we all had a go at arm knitting kindly led by Blue Belle Sue Smales.

Many activities have also been carried out in addition to the monthly meetings.  Our very own Book Club continues to thrive and they have read a range of books whilst enjoying meeting in both pubs and members’ houses.  There have been several trips to the theatre as well as members going to local talks put on by the university.   

The enjoyment of tea and cake appears to be a typical WI tradition that we enthusiastically adhere to.  Each meeting sees a variety of homemade cakes including those suitable for a range of diets provided by our members.  Remke works hard to ensure that we have plenty of cakes and Meeting Fairies each meeting. Our love of cakes was show cased at our very own 4th Craft Fair held in December.  Veronika put together a particularly impressive Cake Stall which customers of the fair could enjoy whilst also having the opportunity to browse the many wonderful stalls with crafts sold by local WI members.  

We have done our bit to support the campaigns process by holding a postcard writing session to friends far and wide as part of the alleviating loneliness campaign.  Lucy also sourced an updated Blue Belle cloth bag as part of the campaign to reduce plastic. 

Another fantastic year in the life of Cambridge Blue Belles WI – what an honour to be part of it all! 

The stars of this year’s craft fair!

Here is a sneak peak of the amazing stall holders that will exhibit at our craft fair this year. In the next few weeks we’ll show you more about them, so head over to our event Facebook page and check them out.

The Blue Belles Cake Stall


Bures WI, Suffolk West

Kaitlin Bradley

Cam City WI

Crafty Pink Giraffe

Dawn Rand Handmade Cambridge

Hey there stickers!


Elaine Offley

Pear Tree Cottage Crafts

Stephanie Powell Osborn

Karina Quigley


Jenny Rutter

Yew Tree Flock



There will also be an informative booth with WI merchandise – jams, chutneys and little gifts made by our lovely Blue Belles as well as brand new Blue Belle canvas bags to help you shop environmentally friendly. And — drumroll —- it looks like we have some membership spots opening this January! So if you’re interested in joining our chapter, find us at our stall and talk to us at the fair. Can’t wait to see you on December 9th!

August meeting – Through the lens

Hello, hello, hello!

After a brief summery break, the blog is back! Blue Belles didn’t have a meeting in July, instead there was a party – cocktail making, canapes, party dresses, and lots of laughs!

For the August meeting we asked Lina Orsino-Allen, from photographic dynamic duo Lina & Tom, to come and talk to us about how to take better photos in every day life. The Committee was expecting a fairly quiet meeting, with everyone being on holiday and all that, but it turned out to be one of our best attended meetings this year! This was due in part to have lots of visitors and first timers; we were very happy to have a full room for the talk.

As usual, the meeting started with a big welcome and our now traditional Good News Round. This months we had lots of good news around loved ones’ health and things got a bit emotional, but we recovered quickly and moved on to our speaker.

Lina Orsino-Allen and her husband Tom are professional photographers, mainly specialising in wedding photography.  Lina explained her background, their path into photography and the Belles were treated to a premier of a video which will appear on the website showcasing their best photographs. There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and giggles too as Lina and Tom really seem to be able to capture the fun element of each wedding.  Lina then talked through some techniques which everyone could try to do improve their photography.  She said the number one rule was not to pose (selfies being an obvious exception!). She also talked about moving position, either lower, or higher or to change the background.  Lina talked about ‘the rule of thirds’ – which is how a photograph can be divided into thirds and then the focal point would be in 1/3 of the photograph, either horizontally or vertically.  She showed us some photographs when this technique was very effective.  Overall, it was an interesting session and Lina’s light-hearted talk was well received by the Belles and we are sure many will be putting her ideas into action for their holiday snaps.

After enjoying a range of cake and fruit supplied by our cake fairies, we moved on to the ‘Business’ section of the meeting, and Lucy (our President) called on members to think of a new name for this part of the meeting to make it sound less formal and boring. Then Katie gave a quick round up of the weekend of Tea and Tents informing everyone what a great time was had by all. A flurry of announcements followed: a Cambridge Collective weekend away in January, Book Club update from new book club attendees Melissa and Rachel, Games Night reminder, and a lovely invitation to join CamCity’s Craft Clubs from visitor Mel.

Our Theatre Club us slowly getting started, secreatry Alice briefly announced that there would be a couple of theatre trips going ahead: Canada to Cambridge, organised by CFWI, as well as a trip to see Pride and Prejudice at Cambridge Corn Exchange in October.

An important part of the meeting followed. Laura Pryke and Joanne kicked off our Allotment Appeal explaining how the allotment works and what the Dig for Denman initiative is about. Laura and Joanne explained that the allotment has grown a lot and more hands are needed to keep it in shape and to make the most out of its benefits. They suggested that the allotment be turned into a CamCo allotment in order to help spread the load of the plot of land. This was followed by a financial update and the announcement that Belles will be invited to give their thoughts and opinions on both the allotment and the financial statement through the next newsletter.

Finally, Lucy announced that from September we will meet from 7.45pm to 9.45pm, and asked that everyone tried to be on time and to volunteer to help with the set up and clearing of the hall.

Blue Belle Plucking Up Courage to Beat Bird Phobia!

We are absolutely OVERJOYED with pride that this month’s WI Life magazine features the story of our fabulous member, Kelly, and her ongoing battle with bird phobia.  
After courageously setting up a blog, Cam Bird Bites, Kelly was approached by a TV Production to appear in Sky 1’s Fright Club! After weeks of grueling exposure therapy, Kelly came out on top – and we can’t wait to see her premiere on the small screen! Watch your local listings for full updates – and we will of course give you the scoop once we’ve got word, too!
Kelly – we applaud you in your strength and efforts, too – keep up the fabulous work!

Khidmat Sisters – Sisterhood for Cambridgeshire’s Muslim Community

The Khidmat sisters are a local musilm women’s collective that came together to provide support for isolated and vulnerable women in their Cambridgeshire. 
Whether that be acting as an open ear, helping to care for someone unable to communicate due to cultural barriers or to organise social events (crochet club included!), the Khidmat sisters introduced themselves to their cause last year and we are always inspired by their incredible passion and energy for border free inclusion.
Khidmat Sisters came to visit us last year to tell us all about their fabulous work in the local community!

The Dawn Project

Run out of the Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre, the Dawn Project provides support for women who were once a part of the criminal justice system. 

Users of their services gain essential emotional support and fellowship amongst their group, too, to help with their journey back into become productive members of the local community. 

We are committed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dawn Project service users and were delighted when their founder, Anna, came to meet us all in January – we have plans in the future to work with them again. 

More information on what these inspirational women do for our community here and here
Dawn Project – providing support for vulnerable women in the community 

Rowan Trust – Helping People to Express Themselves & Gain Experience for the Better!

One of our long time members, Abigail, works at one of the most fantastic charities in Cambridgeshire, Rowan Trust.
Rowan is a ‘Cambridge based charity and arts centre that brings artists and learning-disabled people together in the production of fine artwork and crafts; while providing opportunities for self-expression and creative exploration.’
Abi recently hosted a station at our members Do & Dabble night in which we crafted broaches and badges from ceramics and it was plain to see why she is such an asset to Rowan – her understanding, kindness and eagerness to teach others was something that struck a chord with all us Belles and we are certain, reaches Rowan’s service users too.
We couldn’t be more proud!
Visit the Rowan’s website for full details on all of the great work that they do in the local community and the impact it has on the lives of those who use their services.